Ten Rules for Radicals

Carl Malamud gave an inspiring opening keynote for the final day of WWW 2010. Malamud has spent his career fighting to free government data, video, and documents so that the public can have access to them.

Here are his Ten Rules for Radicals. (Note: These aren't all direct quotes since they were given as part of an hour-long speech.)

  1. Everything you do is an experiment.
  2. `When the authorities finally fire that starting gun, run as fast as you can, so that when they get queasy and have second thoughts, it is too late to stop. As a small player, the elephant can step on you, but you can outrun the elephant.
  3. Eyeballs rule. Build a user base, and you have much more leverage than if you are just blowing smoke.
  4. When you achieve your objective, don't be afraid to turn around and be nice. You can bang on the table and be a pain in the ass, but when you finally get what you want from someone, its time to cooperate.
  5. Keep asking. Keep rephrasing the question until they can say yes.
  6. When you get the microphone, make sure you make your point clearly and succinctly.
  7. Get standing. One can criticize government all one wants, and they will often ignore you. But if there is something clearly wrong and you can document it and publish it, they have no choice but to listen. Get standing, and you can insist.
  8. Try to get the bureaucrats to threaten you.
  9. Look for places where the government is clearly overreaching -- something that is totally nuts. Hit them there. (Refusing to publish state statutes is an example.)
  10. Don't be afraid to fail.

And a hilarious comment on finding out that the FBI had been called in to investigate a "security incident" that his team of information-freeing volunteers had caused:

"Now I'll grant that 20,000,000 document downloads was probably more than what the government was expecting, but I'll remind you: surprising a bureaucrat isn't illegal."